Coral Reefs And Bleaching Phenomenon Essay

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Imagine yourself observing one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Thousands of species of plants and animals provide a dizzying array of color and motion. Massive structures provide a canopy that shelters hundreds of exotic species in a myriad of microclimates. As land-based observers, we almost automatically assume that this is a description of the rich ecosystem of a tropical rainforest. However, if we take ourselves off the safety of dry land and immerse ourselves in the ocean, we will find an equally dynamic environment in the depths of our world’s coral reefs. As a Zoology major, I quickly decided to explore this biological component of the ocean environment. In the following paper, I will provide a general overview of coral…show more content…
Sometimes growing from a single polyp, a colony of thousands of similar polyps is soon established through sexual and asexual reproduction. The sheer vastness of a coral reef provides many other benefits. Coral reefs are crucial land builders in tropical areas, forming islands and altering continental shorelines. Coastlines are also protected from erosion as the reefs dampen harsh incoming waves. This is vital to maintaining the white sandy beaches that drive the tourist motivated economies in tropical regions. An example of the value of coral reefs in this regard is illustrated by Jon Luoma in his article “Reef Madness”. Luoma explains that after a land-reclamation project that destroyed a reef in the Maldives, the government had to spend more than $12 million to build an artificial seawall that served the same purpose(24). As with all diverse ecosystems, the coral reef must maintain a stable environment. Any changes in the physical ocean components can upset the balance of this ecosystem. Temperature, water depth, salinity, wave action, and turbidity all effect the growth of coral reefs. According to biologist Clive Wilkinson of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, it is humans who have caused the death of 5-10% of the world’s living coral reefs (Wilkinson 1987). One direct cause of coral depletion is overfishing. The overfishing of herbivores, which normally consume algae, can cause an explosion

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